VIEWSrnThe Making of an Individualistrnby Bill Kauffmanrn1 liantrnle merely queer is no achievement, but to be brilitlyrnindividualistic is a fine art which Genevarnbrought to perfection,” wrote Warren Hunting Smith, who diedrnlast November at the age of 93.rnMr. Smith lived something of a double life. He was an editorrnof the Yale Edition of the Horace Walpole correspondence,rnbut he was also the resident man of letters in his hometown ofrnGeneva, New York.rnThe Smith family had made its fortune in the nurser)’ business,rnwhich is to say in the cultivation of trees and shrubs, not inrnthe provision of stranger-supervised daycare for the squallingrnspawn of yuppies, the latter being the nursery business thatrnmade failed Republican presidential candidate Lamar Alexanderrna rich man.rnThe family was not quite salt of the earth. Smith’s uncle,rnWilliam, a misogynistic bachelor who founded the women’srncollege that bears his name, was a spiritualist who bequeathedrnto nephew Warren a notebook containing letters “beginningrn’Dear Mr. Smith’ and signed by such names as Socrates, JuliusrnCaesar, and ‘your loving aunt, Sally Coleman.'”rnNonetheless, Warren grew up with ground beneath his feetrnand the knowledge that Geneva was his. At the age of 25, hernpublished a history of his small city, conceding, “A book of thisrnsort should preferably be written by some mellow old gentleman,rnfull of those memories which younger people can acquirernonly with painful research. Unfortunately, no such old gentlemanrnhas shown any literary interest in Geneva, so I have venturedrnto usurp the vacant place.”rnBill Kauffman is the author, most recently, of With GoodrnIntentions? Reflections on the Myth of Progress in Americarn(Praeger).rnThe book, which he titled An Elegant but Salubrious Village,rnis an outrageous exercise in snobber)’, though in the good causernof his hometown. He writes:rnThe very name ‘Geneva, New York’ is a sort of protectiverncoloring, suggesting provincialism of the worst sort. Wernfeel, when we hear it, as we do when we hear of someonernnamed George Washington Schwartz or MichelangelornSnooks; it is as much a surprise to find real charm in thisrntown with the pretentious foreign name as it would be torndiscover that Mr. Schwartz is really descended from thernWashington family, or that Mr. Snooks is actually one ofrnthe Buonarroti.rnWhether he wrote of English travelers {Originals Abroad) orrnSunday painters {Gentle Enthusiasts in Art), Mr. Smith’s subjectrnwas always individuality. His only novel, the delightful ThernMisses EUiot of Geneva (1940), sketched two ancient Episcopalianrnsisters with “one hundred and sixty-five years of celibacy”rnbetween them. They hated “foreigners, Democrats, HighrnChurchmen, and companies that don’t pay dividends,” and wernimderstand, by novel’s end, that sisters Primrose and Candidarnare the last magnificent specimens of a dying breed.rnDeath spared the Misses Elliot the pain of viewing therngrotesque consequences of World War II and the ensuing PermanentrnWar. Their Geneva was decimated when 45,000 transientsrnbunked at the nearby Sampson naval training center.rnThe stately old porticoed homes were remodeled into apartments;rnwooden barracks were thrown up to catch the “humanrnavalanche.” Local historian Arch Merrill wrote, “a blue tidernsurged into Geneva everv night. The city virtually became arnroaring Navy camp and the blare of the juke boxes in the 20rnOCTOBER 1999/13rnrnrn